As exciting as travelling abroad is, there is something special about visiting a destination a little closer to home. Living in the south of England, the beautiful countryside and its myriad of quaint villages is right on our doorstep. Sometimes it is this kind of trip that stays in my heart the longest – slow, easy, nearby – and our latest adventure was just that. Gracing countless Instagram feeds with its honey-coloured cottages and tranquil little streets, Castle Combe quickly landed on our list of places to explore this year. Our staycation last weekend in Gloucestershire provided the perfect opportunity to visit what is known as the prettiest village in England.
The drive to Wiltshire was a beautiful one, with daffodils decorating street corners and the sun making a rare appearance. It was our first long road trip in the new car, which made it all the more exciting. Upon arrival, we dropped the car off at the top of the village and wandered down the winding streets, hand-in-hand, admiring the pretty Cotswold stone houses and taking in the warm spring air. A short walk later, we made it to the village centre and were greeted with the most picturesque scene straight from a postcard. Little touches like a flag of Great Britain, an old post office sign and an honesty cake stand outside someone’s cottage added to the quintessentially English setting. For anyone visiting England for the first time, this would be exactly what they had been searching for.
The village is set on a gentle slope and after stopping to take some photos, we slowly made our way down to the famous bridge that characterises Castle Combe. Here we found a pair of residents absorbed in a conversation, going about their daily lives. I revelled in imagining what it would be like to live in such a peaceful – although, very touristic – place. I suppose that when the sun begins to set, the crowds disperse and the locals are left with their beloved homes, a little like the summer scenes in Burley, our own quaint village back home. The day we visited was a Friday, during the Easter holidays, and arriving just after 10am, we sadly missed the blissful time when we could have the streets all to ourselves. Nevertheless, the village still wasn’t too crowded and actually had a pleasant feel to it with the company of others. The tiny size of it meant that we crossed paths with the same people on more than one occasion, which, in a way, added to the charm of our visit: we had something in common with the other visitors who were also there to see and capture this beautiful haven. At the bottom of the village, we perched on a bench on the side of the river bank, taking delight in the mild spring air and the tranquil scenery before us. This was probably my favourite moment.
Visiting a new place is never complete without sampling one of its cafes and so we stopped for lunch in a cute tearoom, claiming an outdoor table to bask in the sun and digest our morning so far. We often laugh that my blog should be dedicated to reviewing cream teas around the country since that’s nearly always what I get wherever I go. Castle Combe’s cream tea was delightfully as expected in a quaint place like this, with a heart-shaped scone and a swap of tea for San Pellegrino to complement the warm weather outside. We dined a few tables away from the tour group who we bumped into at the start of our morning, watched a local stroll past with his groceries and even made a new canine friend; from the evidence on the fur around his chin, he was an expert at clearing up crumbs around the tables! With the midday sun becoming a little too warm for our jumpers, we decided to continue exploring around the village and see what hidden areas we could find.
While meandering slowly around the village, I couldn’t help but notice pretty corners everywhere and it was lovely capturing these little spots that hadn’t been photographed as much. One of my favourites was an unobtrusive gate leading to someone’s house, with steps down to the river and greenery almost camouflaging its existence. The church towards the top of the village centre was also a lovely spot, a quiet retreat from the traffic of people in the main street and a cool escape from the unusual spring heat. We had also planned to visit the Manor House, a hotel with a grand exterior and exquisite grounds, but it appeared to be closed to the public on this day. I guess that means we will have to come back again for those dreamy, romantic photos. Another place that looked welcoming on a warm spring day was the Castle Inn, just off the centre of the village square, which would have been idyllic for an afternoon Pimm’s at one of the outside tables. That will also have to be on the agenda for next time when we will hopefully have a little more time to spend here.
With an hour’s drive to our destination for the night, we decided that it was probably time to leave this beautiful village, as much as we wanted to stay and never leave. Promising ourselves a return in the summer, we made our way back to the car up the hill, saying goodbye to the pretty stone cottages and our idyllic morning away.
Have you been to Castle Combe or somewhere equally as lovely?